2020 was a rollercoaster, but what is next? The spotlight on health and technology has been unprecedented and will remain. As we head into the new year, the challenges these industries are facing are evolving. I've spoken to teams across the digital health and health tech space to find out the biggest comms challenges of the year ahead.

  1. Building Trust  
    In the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, 76% of respondents placed health as the most trusted sector. 64% trust businesses involved in personalised medicines to do the right thing, yet 78% know little about personalised medicines.

    Trust in health is high, health innovation is trusted, yet not well understood. 2021 is the year to build on that trust. To take stakeholders on a journey and truly explain how the technology works.

    "Stakeholder engagement and building trust have never been more important for health tech companies. With the growing intersection between traditional healthcare, large technology, and emerging digital health companies, topics such as data privacy, medical quality, and consumer trust will continue to shape the digital health narrative and license to operate. It will be critical for brands to drive a proactive, integrated communications strategy that gets out in front of sensitive topics–from business operations to stakeholder management to communication. There is an opportunity to lead for the brands that do this well."
    Bethany Dufresne, Director of Communications, Ada
  2. Cutting through the noise
    "There’s no doubt that 2020 has been an incredible year for digital health. This year will be a record year for funding, with COVID-19 simultaneously accelerating consumer demand, innovation, and industry momentum. But these shifts have also created a more complex and crowded healthcare market. Clear messaging and product/solution differentiation will be critical for companies to stand out in a COVID-19 saturated news-cycle and competitive health market."
    Bethany Dufresne, Director of Communications, Ada
  3. Demonstrating value whilst resources are constrained
    "We are anticipating that there will still be resource constraints in the healthcare system, primarily driven by COVID, which means that health tech firms will need to demonstrate how their technology can be easily/seamlessly adopted while also relieving resources and clinicians’ time. We also expect that a post-COVID healthcare system will be heavily budget constrained, forcing health tech firms to demonstrate cost effectiveness for their technology"
    Jeff Wyrtzen, Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer, Brainomix

    "While 2020 was the year for digital health momentum, 2021 will be the year for demonstrating value and results. The time for digital health hype is over. What will separate the real industry leaders from the rest will be a brand’s ability to back up their message with data and results – whether that be clinical data, patient outcomes or economic impact – these will become a standard prerequisite for prospective partners, investors, and consumers."
    Bethany Dufresne, Director of Communications, Ada
  4. Simplifying the technical
    The terms r-value and efficacy were alien to much of society this time last year, but that is no longer the case. However, much of the communication from the health tech space can alienate stakeholders. As an industry we need to think about how we overcome this to engage simply with our end-users.

    "Simplifying sometimes technical communications to their community in an environment where government and public sector guidance is fluid."
    Dr. Mahiben Maruthappu, Co-founder and CEO, CeraCare
  5. Bringing us back to reality
    Expectations are high. Recently I was speaking with Hitachi Vantara and a group of CIOs, there was great concern that levels of 2020 transformation would be expected throughout 2021. But in reality, we need a reset to ensure resources are focused in the right areas.

    "2020 put us in a precarious and strenuous situation and the industry responded with flexibility and perseverance against the ticking clock of a spreading health pandemic. Resources across the industry, including the time and energy of regulatory bodies, shifted quickly to solving the coronavirus. This meant resources and attention were also taken away from solving life-threatening diseases across other therapeutic areas. So while the progress and speed has been absolutely incredible, it’s important to remember that it’s not the norm of how the industry operates by any means.”
    Hanna Skeppner, Corporate Communications Director, Medidata
  6. Communicating beyond the pandemic
    "This will be a challenge to communicate beyond the pandemic when companies in the sector are faced with the age-old question “What’s taking so long?” after a vaccine that saved the world was just approved in nine months."
    Hanna Skeppner, Corporate Communications Director, Medidata